Coco Cay

The water in the Bahamas is a beautiful aqua, and I might have been tempted to go in except it was very windy when we tendered to Coco Cay on the third day of our cruise. RCCL’s private island is an oasis with native shops, a nature trail, small coves for snorkeling, and numerous beaches with lounge chairs already laid out.

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We enjoyed the beach barbecue with chicken, ribs, burgers, hot dogs, and accompaniments. Somehow this food tastes better outside and when someone else cooks it.

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I savor these private island stops both for the relaxation and the food. And don’t forget to order a Bahama Mama. You can’t visit these islands without drinking at least one. Or a Coco Loco, which they offered at Coco Cay. As the drink vendors said, “If you’re hot, see what I’ve got.”

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We lazed around until we’d had enough sun and then caught the tender back to the ship.

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At night, we celebrated our 40th anniversary with a champagne toast. And so ended our latest cruise.

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View all the photos HERE.

 

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A Day in Nassau

Our first port of call on Majesty of the Seas was Nassau. Having been here before, we didn’t care to take a tour and elected instead to find a place for lunch.

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I’d read about a native Bahamian restaurant and wanted to check it out. Several blocks later, we entered the place on a quiet side street. Nobody was there, and so we left. It’s not a good sign if a restaurant lacks customers. We retraced our steps and chose an air-conditioned place by the water called Via Restaurant and Bar. Our grilled snapper was delicious but spicy. It came with cole slaw plus rice and beans. You can find lots of places to eat along the waterfront including Senor Frog by the far end.

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We shopped on Bay Street despite the intermittent downpours and ended up buying inexpensive umbrellas to add to our collection. Stores were decorated for Christmas. The straw market is still here and under cover. I bought a hat since I’d forgotten to bring mine. The usual souvenirs are available along with fine jewelry, liquor, and perfumes on Bay Street. Know your prices before you go.

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If you’re here for the first time, you can do a city tour, view the fort, visit the Atlantis resort, or participate in a number of water sports activities. I regret that RCCL didn’t offer a culinary experience or any kind of botanical garden if there is one on the island. However, the rainy weather made our independent choice the best one.

View all the photos HERE.

Next Post: Coco Cay

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Majesty of the Seas

We took our adult children on a weekend cruise to celebrate our fortieth anniversary. The older Royal Caribbean vessel left out of Port Canaveral. This was our first time at this port, which seemed less hectic than Port Everglades. Besides our ship on Friday, only one other was docked there and it belonged to Disney. We parked in a garage opposite the terminal and boarded before noon.

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Lunch was available in the Windjammer Café on Deck 12. The buffet setup was much smaller than on our other recent cruises, and I vaguely remembered being here before. We’d sailed on this ship back in 1992.

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Although an older model, the ship is well-maintained and clean. There’s only one pool area on Deck 12 without a secondary glass-covered solarium pool. Elsewhere, there’s a rock climbing wall for sports enthusiasts. You can also go outside on Deck 7 and walk around the deck there for exercise or lounge in a chair facing the water.

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Our oceanview cabin on deck four was tiny, with a small desk that also served as a dresser. Inside the small bathroom, the rectangular shower space had a good showerhead on a removable hose and a curtain instead of a glass door. Lotion, shampoo, and conditioner were provided. I wasn’t as comfortable here as on other recent ships we’ve been on, but it’s a less expensive cruise and we managed for the three nights. This sailing is good for a quick getaway that isn’t as expensive as some other ships, and it has an appealing itinerary with two ports of call. The cruise staff was friendly and worked hard to give guests a memorable experience.

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Shops were located on Deck 5 and had better merchandise than on the larger and newer Celebrity Equinox, our most recent voyage. The shows were entertaining with a comedian, juggler, and singers/dancers. If you’re a night owl, other activities are offered to keep you occupied. The Schooner Lounge had a musician nightly, and you could find dance music in another lounge.

Deck 14 has the Viking Crown Lounge, always a favorite of mine with its panoramic view toward the bow with floor-to-ceiling glass windows. This is where Diamond Members and above could get their free cocktails and appetizers each evening at 5pm.

We’d opted for assigned seats in the dining room at 6pm and luckily had a table for four. The food was very good, although the choices were not as classy as on Celebrity Equinox. You had to pay extra for filet mignon or lobster. The bread selection was varied enough, and a different salad was offered each night. On the second night, the waiters danced along to a conga line. On the last night, they serenaded us with “O Solo Mio” to go along with our Italian cuisine. Other dining options included Johnny Rockets for a small fee, Sorrentos for free pizza, and a deli with appetizers and wraps. For early birds, Sorrentos is open early with coffee and pastries. 

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The Windjammer opens at 7am in the morning for breakfast. I liked that they offered prepared fried eggs although you could have your eggs or omelets cooked to order. Half and half is available in little cups to go with your coffee.

There’s a ceremony of flags in the atrium where the cruise director announces the number of crew members from each country. This was an impressive display along with a few selected native dances. We also attended the welcome back party for repeat cruisers, and Richard won 100 credits in the casino. It took us a while to figure out how to play the slots. It took us less time to play and lose all the points. I’d rather spend my money on souvenirs I can bring home. Note Santa hiding in the crowd on the below right.

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Now I have to work to lose the weight I’d gained. So it goes each time after a cruise.

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View all the photos HERE.

Next Posts: Nassau and Coco Cay

 

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Celebrity Constellation: Ship Review

Celebrity Constellation 9 Night Eastern Caribbean Cruise

Although the Celebrity Constellation is a smaller ship than most of our recent cruises, we enjoyed our experience very much. Everything was super clean and well maintained.

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Our ocean view cabin seemed smaller than most, with a bed, nightstand, desk, and loveseat taking up the space. However, the cabin has enough cubby holes to unpack your suitcase. We didn’t miss a balcony as the ship has plenty of places to go outside and enjoy the view. In our room, we found an umbrella for shore excursions and a tote bag for shopping. The closets had enough hangers and two bathrobes for our use, plus a set of floor to ceiling drawers.

Regarding the bathroom, I loved the shower. It was rectangular rather than the round manhole-cover size on RCCL or the tiny square you get elsewhere. There was room enough to move around in it and the spray was strong. It had a curtain instead of a glass door but this didn’t stick to your body like elsewhere. And there was just enough counter space by the sink to lay out a few items. Shelving provided more storage. The amenities were plentiful: individual bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and lotion; extra toilet paper and tissues; 2 substantial bar soaps; and a shower cap. I hate cruise lines where they give you a dispenser in the shower of a mysterious liquid that serves as shampoo and body soap. It cheapens the experience. Not so here. You feel pampered and supplies are generous.

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Moving on to the lounges and restaurants: These were adequate, but there was a private lounge called Michael’s Club where we went for our lifeboat drill (no life jackets required at the drill). This was a lovely wood-paneled lounge that was only open to an exclusive class of guests. I would rather these distinctions be made some other way so that all guests could enjoy this amenity. Ditto to some of the restaurants, like Luminae and Blu that were only open to certain people. We’d have more dining choices if these were available to all. There’s also a café on deck five that requires a cover charge of $10. It would be nice if this would be an additional dining choice without an extra fee.

All of the Captain’s Club activities were held in the Reflections lounge on deck eleven. This is the top lounge with a full forward view through floor to ceiling windows of the front of the ship. As elite members, we went here every night at 5pm for complimentary drinks. The benefits of being a repeat cruiser are quite good, and as Royal Caribbean owns Celebrity (I think), your points carry over. This lounge is also a good place to read in the air-conditioning during the day where it’s quiet and you have a great view.

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The Celebrity Theater held the main evening entertainment. The production shows were superb. I liked that each one had a theme so it wasn’t a random series of acts. These shows were spectacular, with amazing talent, costumes and sets. During the cruise, we also were entertained by two different comedians and an illusionist. Plus the first and last nights had decent shows as well.

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We never made the later night events but it looked like lots was going on. The Rendezvous Lounge, aft on deck four, is another venue with a live band. A guitarist would also play at the coffee bar or in the wine lounge on deck five, but I thought the latter really would benefit from a piano player. That was lacking on this cruise, and I missed it. I also missed movies being shown in a theater. You could access them in your cabin on the TV, but who wants to lie there and watch television like you do at home? I missed the movie-going experience. They have a big screen at the Celebrity Theater and could easily have shown films there. What else did I miss? While you could get ice cream at the buffet for free, you had to pay for gelato on deck five. I missed the free soft frozen yogurt available on the pool decks of other ships. Also, the cookies available in various locations were crisp and not chewy.

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We did attend a wine tasting and an afternoon tea complimentary with our Captain’s Club elite membership. I didn’t get to see the cooking show or whatever it was, but I like the demos where they give out recipes. Didn’t have that here.

Regarding the crowd, we saw few young children or teens. Most appeared to be adults ranging to thirtyish to sixtyish but not an overt elderly crowd like you might get on other ships. I’d say the average was upper middle class, but that’s just my guess. I didn’t miss the bungee jumping, water slides, zip lines, and other crazy sports activities on the cruise lines that attract a younger crowd. There’s a basketball court, gym, and spa on this ship for those so inclined.

As on other ships, there’s a library and an Internet café. They give group computer lessons for a fee. Internet service is frustratingly slow, but this seems to be the norm at sea. You could access wireless service from your cabin.

All in all, we had an enjoyable experience and I would recommend this ship. Her captain, young and handsome, adds to the romantic ambiance. And I might add that the elevators are the best of any hotel. Four glass elevators with an ocean view whisk passengers fast and efficiently without hardly a wait at any time of day.

The service throughout was great. The pool area was clean, and I liked that they had a covered solarium with a second pool.

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You can also go aft on deck ten and sit outside to watch the ship’s wake. That’s always a peaceful experience.

 

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Coming Next
: The Food, and then the Ports of Call.

Celebrity Cruise

Day 1, Saturday, on the Celebrity Constellation

There’s nothing like the exhilaration you feel when sailing away from land and knowing you are escaping reality for a week or more. We set sail from Fort Lauderdale for a ten day cruise on the Celebrity Constellation. Here is my shaky video of the sail-away:

 

Naturally the first place on the ship we headed was the buffet. I don’t remember what I grabbed for lunch, but I finished it with rum cake and pina colada ice cream. Dinner was shrimp cocktail served with guacamole in this martini glass:

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I had a salad and prime ribs to start off my gastronomic adventure. Apple pie a la mode polished off the meal. From here we went to the welcome show, which entertained us with a comedian, singers and dancers, and two spectacular aerialists. We’d see more of these performers throughout the trip. Below is my cousin Janice who accompanied us on this cruise. You may find a character named after her in Peril by Ponytail.

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Coming Next: Ship Review, then the Ports of Call.

Royal Princess Ship Review

Royal Princess Ship Review
Dec. 8 – 15, 2013
Itinerary: Princess Cays, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten

The Pros

We thought the entertainment and music on this ship were excellent. You could go from one show to another each evening, and the lounges held different music groups nightly. I would like more concert level performers. This cruise had Ray Coussins, a pianist for Frank Sinatra. He had his own show, and he played in the lounges. Down in the central atrium is a dance floor that always has a band playing there. Unlike other ships which are Deadsville at night, this one has plenty to do. You could always go to Movies Under The Stars, a wide-screen movie screen showing popular films each night by the pool.

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Speaking of movies, I loved the widescreen TV mounted on our wall in the stateroom. I got to watch two movies I’d been wanting to see: Austenland (a romantic comedy about a modern woman who gets immersed in a Jane Austen experience at a themed attraction) and Disney’s Brave. The only disadvantages are the lack of menu controls and no close captioned option for the hearing-impaired.

We enjoyed the breakfast selections at the buffet. There is an omelet station if you can find it, but otherwise fried eggs, quiche, breakfast sandwiches, and other egg concoctions are available at the Horizon Court. So are fruits, smoked fish, pastries, waffles and pancakes, and more. I loved having the fried eggs available without asking and wish other cruise lines would adopt this practice.

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Dinner menu choices were generally good. The alternate selections included shrimp cocktail, Caesar salad, plus beef medallions, grilled salmon, chicken, and more. Vegetarian entrees were offered each night at dinner and seemed appealing. There were always appetizers, soups, pasta, entrees, and dessert.

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Dessert selections surpass other ships we’ve been on. At the Horizon Court, there’s a separate Pastry station with all kinds of pastries, cookies, puddings, and other creations. However, our dinner table mate complained that they only have one sugar-free selection per day. Being diabetic, she would have liked more choices.

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And since I’m a foodie, I enjoyed the cooking class and free galley tour. I was also thrilled that this cruise line still offers Baked Alaska on the last night.

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Storage space in the cabins was adequate even though the staterooms themselves are small. We had plenty of room to stash our luggage upright in the closet area instead of having to shove the pieces under our beds.

The shower space is an improvement, with a ledge for putting products or for aiding a lady in shaving her legs. On other ships, you have to stick your foot in the sink to do the job. This larger space was much appreciated.

Blackout drapes are very good. No lights shine in your eyes at night like on one of our other cruises, where we faced the door peephole and light streamed in like a beacon. This cabin was sufficiently dark and the temperature comfortable. Nor did I hear our neighbors except when they went out on the balcony.

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We didn’t have many children on this cruise that saw an average age group well into the sixties, but there is an adults-only Retreat area that’s quite pleasant. For a daily fee, you can rent a covered cabana or pay for the more exclusive Sanctuary enclave.

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The Cons

The bedding (i.e. pillows and comforters) didn’t seem as comfortable as on other ships. The pillows seemed too large, so you could get a crick in your neck with two, but one alone was too flat.

Elevator break-downs are common, and the elevator capacity is much smaller than on other ships.

The lack of a central stairway is highly annoying. One exists, but it’s for crew only. You have to take the elevators mid-ship or else walk aft or forward to reach the stairways.

Our room safe failed during our stay, and we had to call maintenance to change the four AA batteries that power the thing. It was an inconvenience, but service was prompt.

You’ll miss the outdoor promenade deck that goes all the way around a ship under cover on deck 4 or 5. This ship has a few seating areas on this level but they end. If you want to walk all the way around, you have to go at the pool deck or higher and be in the sun.

I would prefer a glass shower door to an unsanitary curtain.

The four rows of rear seats in the Princess Theatre need to be tiered. Seats are crammed into the theatre with central aisles only and no drink holders.

Our dining room service was very slow, but that may be the fault of our assistant waiter who did nothing except carry the meal orders from the dining room. Our waiter refilled the water glasses at our request, and he never once asked if we wanted more rolls or went out of his way to do anything special.

Cabins are very small with no sofas like in the balcony staterooms on RCCL. The standard balconies are even smaller. They barely fit two chairs and a cheap table.

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Ports of Call included a barbecue beach lunch at Princess Cays in the Bahamas, St. Thomas and St. Maarten. I’ve written about these before in previous posts and didn’t do anything new this time except walk around, shop, and lunch in town. Look under Cruising in my blog Archives if you want to catch up on prior voyages. We had lunch in the Greenhouse restaurant at both locations. The one at St. Maarten had free WiFi if you sat inside, which still has an open air view of the water.

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On our last day at sea, we went out on deck in the morning after a rainstorm to see a brilliant rainbow stretching all the way across the sky. How fantastic is this, folks?

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View my Photo Album of the Royal Princess here: http://bit.ly/1j9jJct

View my Videos here: http://bit.ly/1djD5nY 

Vision of the Seas: The Food

Vision of the Seas, Nov. 2-12, 2012
The Food

If you want a sit-down meal on Vision of the Seas, you go to the dining room. Otherwise, the Windjammer Café on the pool deck serves a buffet three times a day plus afternoon snacks between 3 and 5 pm. You could also get pizza, burgers, hot dogs, and sandwiches at a grill outside the Solarium. There’s also a specialty coffee bar with cookies and pastries.

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The food was okay but was not as impressive as on the Allure. The choices didn’t seem as upscale as on past cruises and some of the menus were mediocre at best. Even the garnishes seemed lacking. My husband’s dinner would come with one or two broccoli florets instead of a generous portion. You could do better at the Red Lobster. Not so for those lucky folks invited to the Captain’s Table. We sat right next to this special group, and I almost bumped chairs with Captain Lis herself. These guests were served a feast. Their selections were very different from our simple choices.

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I liked the veal shank, the lobster tail and garlic shrimp, the roast duck, and the turkey dinner. The daily alternate choices weren’t as appealing as on other cruises. And we were disappointed there was no Baked Alaska on the last formal night. The waiters did sing that one time, but it wasn’t the same as in the old days when the dining rooms were decorated according to a different theme each night, and the waiters wore matching outfits. Times have changed, and not for the better. Generally we’d rate the food on this ship as average.

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The coffee throughout the ship was Seattle’s Best, and it was better than on most ships. No complaints there. Creamer is offered at the buffet in non-perishable cups. There are no specialty restaurants yet on this ship, which is scheduled for refurbishment. Hopefully a couple of additional restaurants will be added along with a Diamond Club lounge.

We loved the free drinks and appetizers we’d earned with our Diamond status and frequented the Viking Crown Lounge every evening where this event took place. Between this perk, the Welcome Aboard Party, bottles of wine from our travel agent and a friend, plus two repeat cruisers parties, we saved money on the bar bill. And that’s without getting the free champagne at the art auctions! I miss the nightly Diamond Club appetizers the most.

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Also notably lacking were the chocolates on our pillows at evening turn-down service. This omission was a disappointment, no doubt a cost-cutting measure but a come-down all the same. It went along with the more plebian food choices. Even the breakfast buffet had little variety. It would have been nice if they’d offered fried eggs and premade omelets like on Princess. You could get them only if you stood in line for the chef.

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Despite the shortcomings, it was still great to have food available at all hours and in various locations around the ship. We found plenty of tasty choices to enjoy. Fortunately, stair climbing and walking around the decks helped to counteract the extra calories.

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To View the entire Photo Album, Click Here.

Coming Next: Ports of Call

Vision of the Seas

Vision of the Seas
Nov. 2-12, 2012

The Ship

Vision of the Seas was a refreshing change from our last voyage on the exciting but enormous Allure. A member of Royal Caribbean’s Vision Class fleet, this ship has sleek lines and a classic layout. Ocean views are prevalent from all the lounges, and the more intimate size makes this cruise an easy one to run into the same people and make friends. We had a great itinerary with four days at sea to relax and five ports to visit.

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I loved the floor-to-ceiling windows in many of the lounges and the Windjammer Café that showed ocean views. The Windjammer faces forward so you have a view of the ship plowing through the waves. I really missed these windows on the Allure and felt closed in on that huge ship despite the numerous venues. The Vision’s Solarium has a domed glass cover, so you can sit out at the pool during inclement weather. We had no problem getting lounge chairs at either of the two main pools during the day.

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There are enough inside lounges for variety, and the shops have interesting wares. We had plenty of places to walk around, and I for one did not miss the interior Promenade from the larger ships. I’d rather see the water wherever possible, although the Promenade at night does give you a place to stroll. Still, there was plenty to do here. A lively, several stories-high atrium had a dance floor where musicians played in the evening.

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The captain greeted us at the Welcome Aboard Party on the second night which was formal dress. Lo and behold, we had a lady captain! As I’m a fan of Captain Janeway on the Enterprise, I was thrilled. Captain Lis Lauritzen was gracious and kindly posed for photos and gave welcoming talks throughout the cruise as well as her daily briefing from the bridge. (“This is Captain Lis from the Bridge”—Do you ever wonder where else they might be?) I liked her joke about the difference between a boat and a ship. “A ship has a captain. A boat is run by a frustrated husband.” Diplomacy, poise, and wit are definitely part of her job description.

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Our cabin was comfortable and in a great location. If you’re sensitive to light when you sleep, I’d suggest you bring a sleep mask. Light beamed through the peephole from out into the corridor and it shone like a beacon in my eyes at night. If you have a balcony, light from outside might shine in as well. You might also want to bring some shower gel. You can barely move in the shower, so if you drop a bar of soap, good luck retrieving it. Our shower on Vision had a clingy curtain instead of a glass door, and I cringed at the thought of who might have touched it last. As for shaving in the shower, forget it. I had to put my foot on the toilet seat and dip my razor in the sink. I hope the shower curtains are replaced with glass doors during the upcoming refurbishment. It is badly needed as most of the carpets throughout the ship are stained and the paint is peeling off the outdoor chairs.

Make sure your room isn’t over, under, or near a lounge with music at night or near an elevator. On the Vision, a door separates the public areas from the stateroom sections. This door helps to keep noise out of the cabin areas, except perhaps for the people right next to it. They might hear the door bang open and closed all night. A couple we met had their room over the show lounge (not the theater). The band’s noise reverberated throughout their cabin and they were forced to stay awake each night until after midnight. Be careful to look and see where your cabin is located when you book your cruise. Otherwise, our cabin was comfortable and the steward gave excellent service. This is a nice size ship if you’re looking for a more relaxed cruise experience.

As for entertainment, the production shows in the Masquerade Theatre were visually appealing and the singers/dancers competent, but these shows lacked sparkle and so were nothing exceptional. I hate jugglers, so we skipped that performance. We enjoyed the comedians, especially 85 year old Norm Crosby who’s the best we’ve heard in recent times. We also caught a couple of movies: The Lucky One with Zac Efron and People Like Us with Chris Pine. Overall, I’d rate the entertainment and enrichment topics as average. If you’ve been on many cruises, you’ve seen similar. But does it matter? Being on a ship is still a diversion from watching TV at home.

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To View entire Photo Album, Click Here.

Coming Next: The Food (my favorite part!) and then the Ports of Call.

Aruba

Day 7, December 14, Tuesday, Emerald  Princess 10 Day cruise to Southern Caribbean

BONAIRE

We had more time on this island than Grenada and I would have liked less. It’s 112 square miles with a population of 14,000. The land appeared relatively flat and sparse with little vegetation. It didn’t look as populated as the other islands, but my cousin took an island tour and was so impressed by the upscale housing and sights that this was her favorite island. She said there’s a very low level of unemployment. Next time we’ll have to do the island tour.

We walked down the pier to the main shopping street, passed a bunch of crafts vendors, and turned left. The shops sold the usual souvenir items plus sea salt produced here. We bought aloe lotions as they grow the medicinal plant on this island. There were no bargains and nothing else new to get. A few bars face the water where you can buy a drink and admire the view. The streets were dusty with the dried mud coating the surface and buildings with second-story balconies reminiscent of the Old West. We arrived at port at 12 o’clock. My husband and I spent less than two hours walking around. I liked this port the least but it’s probably good if you like water sports. The water was beautiful and crystal clear. We could see tropical fish swimming around right up to shore.

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Day 8, December 15, Wednesday

ARUBA

We approached the main town Oranjestad on this prosperous island of 74 square miles. Aruba’s population is around 34, 000. It’s part of the Dutch Commonwealth. Aloe is its main agricultural crop. I spied numerous freighters offshore. A sandbar protects the coast by the pier and a lone tree grows seemingly in the middle of the water. We could see oil storage tanks from the Lago refinery in the distance on one side and the airport on the other. The island appears mostly flat with a hilly area in one direction.

The affluent and well-kept town contains some of the same jewelry stores as St. Thomas. You can get jewelry galore along the main street, L.G. Smith Boulevard, along with tropical wear, souvenirs, and Delft china items from Holland. It didn’t take us long to walk up and down the street and stroll around the Royal Plaza and Renaissance Malls (attached to a hotel).

Diamonds International is a favorite store among cruise passengers, and Kay’s Fine Jewelry had some good prices. (In St. Thomas, check out Imperial Jewelers and Ballerina Jewelers in addition to DI).

We went back to the ship for lunch then explored the souvenir shops inside the cruise terminal. You can get last minute gifts here without going farther. Aruba is a large island, and if you can ignore its news infamy, worthy of exploration.

                                

Tonight on the ship was the Captain’s Circle repeat members cocktail party. It was very crowded. They were generous with the drinks but not with the food. For dinner, I chose the roast rack of lamb. The show was a ventriloquist whose dummy was a shrieking duck that grated our nerves. We left in the middle of his performance.

Days 9 & 10, December 16-17, Thursday and Friday

AT SEA

We enjoyed our days at sea, sitting out by the pool, reading, eating, lounging on our balcony. Eating again. Napping. Checking out the ice cream. Getting a hot dog. Grabbing a cookie. Reading. Eating again. If you want to be busy, there are various activities going on, but this was my 25th cruise and I’d been there, done that. It was a wonderfully relaxing trip. I miss the warm weather, now that we are home again. The only solution is to plan our next voyage on the high seas.

For more photos, go to: http://bit.ly/i1wERn

And if you’re into cruise mysteries, check out Killer Knots, my latest Bad Hair Day mystery featuring hairdresser Marla Shore who solves crimes with wit and style under the sultry tropical sun, this time on a cruise to the Caribbean.

Grenada

Day 6, December 13, Monday, Emerald Princess 10 Day Cruise to Southern Caribbean

GRENADA

The day dawned bright and sunny and warm. Clouds hovered over the distant mountain ranges as we approached the famed “spice” island. I spotted a fort up on a hill, a clock tower in town, and a multitude of pastel buildings, many of which clustered up the hillside. Grenada is 133 square miles. Approximately 33,700 people live in the capital city of St. George’s which is where we docked.

                       

We boarded an air-conditioned bus for the ship’s tour titled Grenada Explorer (the sign-up sheet says non a/c vehicles but that may be outdated). Here we drove through the insanely crowded narrow streets of St. George’s barely scraping by other vehicles. We emerged onto a road hugging the rocky coast. Sandy beaches and resorts are to the south side. We headed in the opposite direction. After a lengthy drive past many seaside villages, we turned inland toward the lush jungle interior. Wild fruit trees sprouted everywhere: tall, leafy nutmeg trees with round nuts sagging from the branches. Papayas laden with heavy green fruits. Abundant banana plants in various stages of maturity. Long cocoa pods hanging off trees. Vines aplenty. We passed some planted fields of corn and root vegetables. Most of the nutmeg, cacao, bananas are exported to Europe. It was amazing to see these fruit trees wild all over the island. I was stunned by the bountiful fruits to be found on this tropical paradise, although the standard of living could be higher.

Nutmeg Tree

                           

Cacao Tree

We careened around switchback roads up and down through verdant hillsides, spotting an occasional goat. Overhead power lines strung through villages. We saw many half-built structures as though abandoned mid-construction. Men sat about watching us pass as though they had nothing productive to do. Laundry hung out to dry at many cottages. Dogs roamed the streets, and children played on open porches. Many of the homes were on stilts, without any visible air-conditioning units. Given the living conditions, I was surprised when the guide said they have cable TV with the same channels as we do.

Our first stop, an hour’s drive away, was the centuries old Dougaldston Spice Estate. The wooden buildings were faded and rundown. While I visited the outbuilding restroom, the host described the different spices grown on the island. I joined the group as he passed each spice around for us to smell: nutmeg, bay leaves, cloves, mace, ginger, tumeric, and cocoa. Small packets were available for purchase for a dollar or two each with no labels other than what spice they contained. I was disappointed; the tour description said we’d have the opportunity to buy spices here and I’d expected something more sophisticated. This hardly seemed worth the long ride, except that I enjoyed the drive through the verdant mountains to view the scenery.

Spice Estate; Beans Drying in Sun

                 

Spice Estate Demo

Our bus resumed its route, making one roadside stop. The driver paid a guy to give us each a banana to eat. The tour list said we were supposed to stop at Gouyave Nutmeg Station but I don’t recall this being part of the tour.

We proceeded next to Grand Etang National Park 1900 feet above sea level for a view of the crater lake. I would have liked more time here as they had the best vendors for shopping but we only had 15 minutes. I gulped down the free rum punch which was mostly fruit juice, snapped a quick picture, and ran from one craft stall to the next. I bought spice necklaces made up of the different spices grown on the island. They smelled wonderful and I hoped they would keep until we got home and I hung one in my kitchen. I also bought nutmeg syrup and nutmeg jam plus some gift packs and individual packets of the different spices.

Crater Lake

          

Annandale Falls

From here we visited Annandale Falls where we had a short hike downhill for the view. It was a minor waterfalls compared to the twin falls in Dominica. The vendors here were annoying, pushing their wares at us. We were now anxious to get back to town to do some shopping but our bus driver took us to Fort Frederick. We admired the ships in harbor in St. George below. There was another vendor up here plus restrooms.

Our bus stalled as we turned to make a sharp curve. All the passengers had to get out and several men helped push the bus backward. Then the driver aimed downhill, and we climbed back on. We gritted our teeth as we coasted down the steep decline but the engine restarted. Whew. The driver deserved our praise after the harrowing ride.

Fort Frederick

We’d begun our tour around 7:30 and got back to town around 12:30. Five hours was too long to be sitting on a bus. I would have liked a lot more time in town, especially because the ship left at 2:00 pm. This was our shortest port stop and one of the most interesting. Nonetheless, we appreciated the tour of Grenada’s natural wonders. My only suggestion to Princess would be to stay in port longer.

Frantic to buy more spices, I shopped in the Esplanade Mall next to the pier. Everything you’d want is right there: duty free liquor and perfume, souvenirs and spices, jams and jellies, hot sauces. This was a great shopping mall with crafts vendors outside. We didn’t have time to walk around the town at all. Maybe it was just as well. I’d already spent too much money and bought all kinds of spices that I didn’t know how to use.

Once aboard, we rested in our cabin then strolled around the ship. Most of the pool chairs were already taken so we enjoyed our balcony. For dinner that night, I had shrimp cocktail, a mushroom tart, roasted sliced duck, and a Grand Marnier soufflé.

For more photos, go to: http://bit.ly/i1wERn